When 275 townspeople came together to create the precursor to Amherst College in 1821, their aim was to educate “indigent young men of piety and talents.” To support that endeavor, these benefactors together donated $50,000, in gifts ranging from $5 to $3,000.
That Charity Fund was the College’s first endowment, the financial foundation that has enabled Amherst to live up to the bright future its creators envisioned for it. In starting the fund, those prescient donors established a legacy and culture of giving—one that has now been instilled in nearly two centuries of graduates.
This weekend, Amherst College will officially launch Promise: The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century, in anticipation of its bicentennial in 2021. The comprehensive campaign, in the words of President Biddy Martin, will honor the College’s past and future.
The word promise, she says, “is a way of conveying the ethos of Amherst College—the promise we see in our students, the promise of a liberal arts education, our promise to identify and enroll talented students who reflect the diversity of the society and the wide world, and the promise of research and discovery, of friendship and community.”
Promise: The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century is our chance to fulfill the promise of this treasured place, and to renew our promise to those who will follow us.” — President Biddy Martin
The campaign sets out to extend the College’s academic leadership into its third century—by preserving its core values while reinventing aspects of a liberal arts education for a new generation. It will ensure that Amherst has the faculty, resources and facilities to provide students with the best possible educational experience in the small, close-knit academic environment that has always been Amherst’s hallmark.
Support from the campaign will allow the College to meet student enrollment demands in STEM fields, support teaching innovation and faculty scholarship, and offer more opportunities for students to learn by doing, through research opportunities, field-based projects, international travel with faculty, internships and other forms of career exploration.
“Promise comes at a time when the College’s distinctive combination of core values—critical thinking, persistent questioning, pursuit of truth, freedom of inquiry, freedom of expression, equity, civility, and friendship—are never more important,” Martin says. “Promise seeks to safeguard and invigorate that special combination of strengths by building on the College’s tradition of extraordinarily generous philanthropy.”
Amherst’s last campaign, Lives of Consequence, launched in 2008 with a goal of $425 million. Surpassing that total nearly a year earlier than anticipated, Lives of Consequence closed the books in 2013.
The Promise launch will begin with the dedication of the Greenway A residence hall by its new namesake, William E. Ford ’83, P’13 on April 6 at 4 p.m. Events will continue throughout the following day and will feature many that are open to the public, including performances, science demonstrations, research presentations and academic lectures, among others.
“As we look ahead to our 200th birthday,” says Martin, “preserving and amplifying Amherst’s special combination of strengths means continuing to ensure educational opportunity for young people from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.” It also means promoting Amherst’s values, she says, and “renewing the promise of the liberal arts” by meeting the needs of a changing world and a more global, diverse population of students.
“Promise: The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century is our chance to fulfill the promise of this treasured place,” Martin says, “and to renew our promise to those who will follow us.”
The goals of Promise, The Campaign for Amherst’s Third Century
- Attracting and supporting outstanding students and faculty through financial aid, endowed professorships and other initiatives;
- Meeting student need in the sciences and math;
- Promoting innovation in teaching and learning;
- Providing critical facilities, including new homes for the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Center for Writing and Public Speaking, as well as athletic and social spaces on campus;
- Creating a stronger sense of community and belonging by finding meaningful, intentional ways to bring students, staff and faculty together; and
- Supporting the Annual Fund.